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Does Public Breastfeeding Make you Uncomfortable?

Nursing a child is a natural part of life, but there are still stigmas attached to breastfeeding in public.

Moms Talk is a weekly feature on all Lehigh Valley Patches in which local parents, caregivers and other members of the community are invited to share opinions and advice on parenting issues.

This week’s Moms Talk topic relates to public breastfeeding:

Nursing a child is a natural thing, but let's face it, there are stigmas attached to doing what comes naturally -- especially in public. 

So, tell us what you think: Does it make you feel awkward to breastfeed or to see someone breastfeed in public? 

Join the conversation. Each week our Moms Council members discuss these and other issues.

Our Moms Council members include: 

  • Lisa Amey of Upper Milford Township is a stay-at-home mom to an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. A past president of the MOMS Club of Emmaus and longtime member of MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers), Lisa is an Independent Consultant for Arbonne International. 
  • Lisa Drew of Emmaus is a certified nutritionist and personal trainer, wellness and fitness coach with more than 17 years of experience. She is the mother of a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy.
  • Jennifer Elston of Emmaus has almost two decades of professional experience in child development and counseling. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful girls. Together with her husband, Chris, she owns Christopher Elston Photography.
  • Jeanne Lombardo of Nazareth is the mother of a 10-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. She’s new to the Lehigh Valley, having moved to Nazareth from Bergen County, NJ in January.
  • Lisa Merk of Lower Macungie is a stay-at-home mother of four boys – a 12-year-old and 6-year-old triplets. Lisa is a past president of the MOMS Club of Lower Macungie East. In her “spare” time, Lisa teaches piano to school-age children.
  • Megan Patruno of Allentown is a mother of three – an 11-year-old boy, an 8-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy. Megan also works as an admission counselor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown.
  • Zoila Bonilla Paul of Bethlehem is a stay-at-home mom to two girls – a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old. Zoila is a member of her local “moms’ club” and says she is “well-versed in the fun that children can bring.”
  • Beth Sharpless of Emmaus works part time in a local emergency department as a nurse and part time from home as a customer support specialist. She has two children -- a boy who is almost 2 and a 5-year-old girl. She says they love spending time outdoors and dancing. 

If you would like to become a part of the Moms Council and/or have ideas for future Moms Talk questions, please email jennifer.marangos@patch.com.

Beth October 16, 2011 at 11:45 PM
No, it doesn't make me feel uncomfortable. It is a natural thing. I breastfed both of my children and was comfortable doing it in public, although (depending on the situation), I did enjoy some alone time with my infant to nurse them in the car or a private location.
Pamela Porter October 17, 2011 at 12:01 AM
Doesn't bother me in the least.
Jennifer Elston October 17, 2011 at 12:11 AM
I definitely support breast feeding and think it is best for babies. I do, however, feel uncomfortable when women do it in public. I don't think they should hide or anything. It's my issue and not theirs.
Jeanne October 17, 2011 at 12:27 AM
I breastfed and i, myself, don't feel uncomfortable with public breastfeeding. However, I didn't breastfeed in public. I don't necessarily think though breastfeeding should be done in public if you have a choice. I always looked at feeding time, especially breastfeeding time, as a time to bond with the baby and have you're own alone/quiet time with the baby. I think doing it in public takes away from that. Not that I think if you are in a crunch that you shouldn't be able to, but just to make every effort to make that just time between you and the baby.
Sue October 17, 2011 at 02:18 AM
It is not as if you can actually see a breast in most cases of public breastfeeding, so if you're uncomfortable with this natural act, it must be an unconscious reminder of your own inability to have your needs met as a baby. On the other hand, why is it "legal" for an obese man to go shirtless in public?
Ken White October 17, 2011 at 04:56 AM
I am not a woman and therefore have never breastfed. When we had our kids my wife and I went round and round about it, discussing late into the night. She brought out a blackboard and drew pictures. Then she,showed me on the internet how everything worked. I finally agreed that she would probably do a better job at it than me so she was given that particular duty. I have nipples, mind you, but I don't know why. If they're there for show they don't exactly put on a good one. If the sight of a woman breastfeeding in public bothers you, you should just turn your head. If there's another woman breastfeeding in that direction, just keep turning your head until you find a direction totally free of breastfeeding women. Then, and only then, will it be safe for you to press on to Prudeville, where you are obviously the mayor.
Rosemary B October 17, 2011 at 11:51 AM
I always hated feeling like I had to breast feed in bathrooms. As long as you are covered it is fine. The key is being discreet about it.
Lisa Amey October 17, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Breastfeeding is best for babies, in every sense. If a woman can do it, she should feed her baby whenever she needs to. It doesn't bother me. Most people are naturally discrete about it anyway.
Lisa Merk October 17, 2011 at 01:02 PM
It doesn't bother me at all.
Jennifer Marangos (Editor) October 17, 2011 at 01:31 PM
I come from a slightly different place on this topic, having nursed both of our children, but in two different parts of the world. We lived in Europe during the time I was breastfeeding my older child and in the United States during the time I was breastfeeding our younger son. I was rarely uncomfortable when breastfeeding overseas and often looked at a bit oddly when I asked friends and family members "where should I nurse the baby?" The response was always "right where you are" with this added tone of "why would you even ask?" In the United States, however, breastfeeding did often make me feel uncomfortable, as I felt that I needed to hide under a tent in order to feed the baby.
Mom of DnNnD October 17, 2011 at 01:34 PM
Ken, thank you for your post, it gave me a giggle this morning. It's also nice to hear a man's opinion on the subject.
Sarah C October 17, 2011 at 01:36 PM
I can't even believe this is a topic for discussion. If a woman feels comfortable breastfeeding in public, then good for her and great for her baby. Congrats on not being embarassed by doing what God/nature intended. It doesn't bother me in the least.
Peter Hauser October 17, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Breastfeeding in public is fine, making a circus out of it isn't. Descretion is desireable. Sex is "natural" (and good), but do we really want the person sitting next to us in a restaurant doing it? Asbestos is "natural". But is it good?
Limeport Resident October 17, 2011 at 01:50 PM
The key is being discreet. If someone watched you breast feeding would you object? Or if they made comments about your breasts? After all it is in public and people should be allowed to do what they want even though you are uncomfortable. As for the natural aspect, so is intercourse, going to the bathroom-- should you be allowed to do both in public? If discreet- then go for it!
Center Valley Citizen October 17, 2011 at 03:24 PM
I am currently nursing my 3.5 month old. I also have a 7 year old daughter who I was not able to breastfeed. She was born very early, and the doctors pushed me to put her on special formulas, etc. Allowing them to talk me into that is a decision I always regretted. So, when my husband and I found out we were expecting for a second time, I was excited at the prospect of nursing this little one. I have found breastfeeding to be so enjoyable, both for me and for baby. It is such a natural thing - so happy I did it this time around! I do not, however, feel comfortable nursing in public because of the stigmas attached to it. I wish that weren't the case, but it is. If we're heading out, and I know the baby will need to eat while we're away, I bring expressed breastmilk in bottles. There have been a few times I've had the need to pump while in public, and have chosen to do so in the privacy of my vehicle, while covered with a blanket. For some reason, no matter how natural, I can't bring myself to "whip it out" in a public setting.
Center Valley Citizen October 17, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Are you really comparing public breastfeeding to lewd sexual acts, and urinating in public? Furthermore, you're saying that if a mother feels comfortable enough to nurse in public, she is required to deal with the ridicule others may dish out? It is people like this who make nursing mothers uncomfortable.
Center Valley Citizen October 17, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Hear, hear! When I'm at work, I have to pump in the bathroom because there simply isn't any place else. And even that gives me the heebie jeebies. I couldn't imagine nursing my little on in a bathroom. I wouldn't eat in a bathroom, public or otherwise, so why would I expect my baby to?
Salisbury Resident October 17, 2011 at 04:49 PM
17 responses, 2 of which are men. Looks like to me the women debate it much more than the men do. Bottom line...who cares? Babies gotta eat. Do what you feel is best and make sure the laws support the majority of opinion.
Limeport Resident October 17, 2011 at 05:18 PM
I was not comparing breastfeeding to anything other than the statement it is a natural act. Sex is a natural act but you are the one that classifies it as lewd, urinating is natural but doing it in public, as e.g., bike riders do in public, is wrong in USA. Seemingly, making mothers uncomfortable is my problem but someone feeling uncomfortable because of breastfeeding in public is their problem. Strange concept that a mother's comfort comes ahead of everyone else. (BTW, Kelly seems to found a sensible approach to the matter)
Elyssia Mathias October 17, 2011 at 06:17 PM
I never felt uncomfortable nursing in public - I covered up for privacy wherever I was - restaurants, shops, etc. It's never bothered me to see other people breastfeeding, either. Just not a big deal.
Daisy Klaber October 17, 2011 at 07:25 PM
I'm not a mom, so I don't breastfeed anywhere, but it only makes me feel admiration and respect when I see a woman breastfeeding her child--especially in public, where she can't always expect support, unfortunately. But that's why I'm proud to be part of The Milk Truck--helping to lighten the mood, and maybe change some hearts and minds! (http://www.themilktruck.org/Home.html)
Ana - milkmommymilk October 17, 2011 at 08:03 PM
I must admit that I did feel uncomfortable at times. Hence my organic nursing tops! They made my life a lot easier. That's why my partner and I created Milk Mommy Milk ( www.milkmommymilk.com), so other moms could feel supported and comfortable like we did while wearing the right gear. It makes a huge difference! Moms and women, let's support one another to make breastfeeding what it was meant to be: natural!
Ana - milkmommymilk October 17, 2011 at 08:12 PM
I LOVE the idea and wish The Milk Truck much success! Thanks for helping support so many moms out there!
Heather N. October 19, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Ken White October 19, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Why have no babies have commented on this story? I think their input on mommy's output would be illuminating. They could answer some questions. For instance, is it extra thrilling for them to be breastfed in public? You know, like an "oh no, we might be spotted so we gotta hurry" type of thing? Or is it just annoying to have every Tom, Jerk and Scary staring at them while they're trying to squeeze a meal in between naps. Also, if two babies are being breastfed in public together, do they instinctively race each other to see who can finish first? Or is the first baby to blurf on mommy's shoulder the winner? Do they whisper to each other while their mommies talk? Like, do they compare the size of their mommies’ boobs? I bet the boy babies’ do cause size always seems to matter to boys. Well, anyway, I think babies should weigh in here. But, nooooooo, they're too busy to help out. If they're not nursing, they’re napping. If they're not napping, they're having the obligatory diaper change (which is nothing more than an impromptu mommy concert of every soft rock song just outside her vocal range). And if they're not doing any of that and mommy's in the laundry room (she always is), you can be darned sure they're under their favorite blankee investing on E-Trade because mommy, with one hand over her nose and the other holding the offending diaper at arm’s length, hurried away just a little too hastily, carelessly leaving her Iphone on the changing table.
Mary Anne Looby October 20, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Doesn't bother me at all.


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